D Standard Tuning: How to Tune Your Guitar One Step Down? | TunedStrings (2024)

D Standard Tuning: How to Tune Your Guitar One Step Down? | TunedStrings (1)

If you tune all strings one step down, you will get DGCFAD instead of EADGBE. Cool! That way, you can play some songs that are in D standard tuning or sing some songs that may be too high for you without having to change chord hand positions.

So, how to tune your guitar one step down? Let me explain both ways: with a tuner and by ear. But before that, let’s do some basic music theory.

What it Means to Tune Down One Step

Standard tuning is the most commonly used tuning for the guitar. In standard tuning, the six strings of the guitar are tuned to the following pitches, from the lowest string (thickest string) to the highest string (thinnest string):

  • 6th string (Low E): E
  • 5th string (A): A
  • 4th string (D): D
  • 3rd string (G): G
  • 2nd string (B): B
  • 1st string (High E): E

This arrangement of pitches allows for a wide range of chord voicings and melodies to be played easily on the guitar.

When we talk about tuning down one step, we’re referring to lowering the pitch of each string by a whole step. In musical terms, a whole step is equivalent to two frets on the guitar.

So, if we were to tune down one step from standard tuning (EADGBE), each string would be tuned down as follows:

  • 6th string (Low E): D
  • 5th string (A): G
  • 4th string (D): C
  • 3rd string (G): F
  • 2nd string (B): A
  • 1st string (High E): D

This tuning is often denoted as DGCFAD.

Intervals and How They Relate to Tuning Down

In music theory, an interval is the distance between two pitches. Each string on the guitar is tuned to a specific interval relative to the next string. In standard tuning, the intervals between adjacent strings are typically tuned to fourths (except for the interval between the 2nd and 3rd strings, which is a major third).

When we tune down one step, we’re effectively lowering the pitch of each string by two half steps. This means that the interval between each string is still maintained, but the overall pitch of the guitar is lower.

For example, in standard tuning (EADGBE), the interval between the 6th (Low E) and 5th (A) strings is a perfect fourth. When we tune down one step to DGCFAD, this interval is still a perfect fourth, but the pitches of each string are lower by two half steps.

Understanding intervals is crucial for tuning your guitar accurately and for understanding how different tunings affect the overall sound and playability of the instrument.

How to Tune Your Guitar One Step Down with a Tuner

Here’s a step-by-step guide for tuning your guitar one step down using a tuner:

First, you need to have a good tuner. If you are playing at home, most clip-ons will do. For live gigs, consider using a pedal tuner.

Choose the one-step-down tuning setting on your tuner if available. In most cases, with chromatic tuners, you just need to start turning the pegs down and here’s how:

  • 6th string (Low E): Tune down to D
  • 5th string (A): Tune down to G
  • 4th string (D): Tune down to C
  • 3rd string (G): Tune down to F
  • 2nd string (B): Tune down to A
  • 1st string (High E): Tune down to D

Pluck each string one by one and adjust the tuning peg until the tuner indicates that the string is in tune.

Turn the peg clockwise to increase the pitch and counterclockwise to decrease it.

Repeat the process for each string, working your way from the lowest (6th string) to the highest (1st string).

After tuning all strings, strum some chords and play individual notes to ensure everything sounds harmonious.

If any strings sound slightly off, make small adjustments until they are in tune.

D Standrad Tuning by Ear

Tuning to D by ear might not be the best option if you are still not sure about your pitch recognition. If you are confident to tune by ear, first, you can use a video such as the one below for reference and just tune down each string.

If your guitar is in the standard tuning, one way to do this is find the D tone on your a A string. Then tune down the E string to D. This way, you are using D on A as a reference and tuning down to match the same note one octave lower.

Repeat this for all other strings until reaching the highest E string. Then, use the sixth string for reference and tune down the first string to D (two octaves higher than low D)

Things to Keep in Mind When Using D Standard Tuning

Playing in D tuning is fun, but there are some things to pay attention to.

  • String tension: Take note of how the strings respond to the decreased tension, as it can impact your playing comfort and the overall sound of your instrument.
  • Intonation: After tuning, check the intonation by comparing fretted notes with open strings or harmonics. This keen attention to detail ensures your guitar maintains its harmonious balance across all frets.
  • Neck relief: The change in string tension from tuning down can influence the neck relief—the slight curvature of the neck. Gauge the neck relief post-tuning adjustment and make necessary tweaks to the truss rod to preserve optimal playability and prevent potential fret buzzing or discomfort.
  • String action: Assess the action along the fretboard and fine-tune the bridge height for a consistent, comfortable playing experience, ensuring each note rings out clear and true.
  • Stability: Keep an ear out for tuning stability post-adjustment. Lowered tuning might necessitate a period of string settling. Gently stretch the strings to aid in this process, promoting stability and minimizing the likelihood of sudden tuning shifts during play.
  • Tonal exploration: Lowered tunings often evoke deeper, richer tones, which can add character to your playing, particularly in certain musical genres,
  • String gauge: Consider opting for thicker strings to maintain consistent tension and enhance the resonance of your instrument across the lower registers.

Popular Songs in D Standard Tuning

Plenty of popular songs use this tuning, including

  • Yesterday by The Beatles
  • Come as You Are by Nirvana
  • Everlong by Foo Fighters (Foo Fighters often use this tuning)
  • The Joker by Steve Miller Band
  • Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix

Further Resources

You might be interested to learn more options beyond D Standard Tuning

  • How to Turn a Guitar Half a Step Down
  • Guide to Alternate Guitar Tunings
  • Double Drop D Tuning Guide
  • Open E Tuning Guide

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D Standard Tuning: How to Tune Your Guitar One Step Down? | TunedStrings (2024)
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